Biothera on a roll as yeast beta-glucan moves into the mainstream

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Immune system

Biothera on a roll as yeast beta-glucan moves into the mainstream
Sales at biotech firm Biothera have exploded in the last three years as some of the biggest names in food and drink have started to take yeast-based beta glucan seriously as an immune health ingredient.

Biothera chief executive Richard Mueller was speaking to NutraIngredients-USA following the release of the first official monograph for beta glucan 1,3/1,6 from baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces Cerevisiae)​: the result of a collaboration between Biothera and standards body United States Pharmacopeia (USP).

Until recently, there was no industry standard for identifying and qualifying the purity of beta glucan from baker’s yeast, he said: “Based on our analysis of other bakers yeast beta glucans, we believe that many products do not comply with the new monograph.”

While rival suppliers of beta glucans from baker’s yeast were not required to comply with the new standard, failure to do so could make their products less acceptable to customers, he said.

“Now that there is a monograph, we believe many food and beverage companies will adopt it. In fact, many food and beverage manufacturers will not use ingredients that are not FCC-compliant.”

Sales have more than doubled each year for the past three years

Derived from the cell wall of a proprietary strain of baker’s yeast, Biothera’s Wellmune WGP beta glucan ‘primes’ the innate immune system - the body’s first line of defense against invasion by bacteria and viruses – and had key advantages over many probiotics for food formulators because it could withstand wide pH ranges, high temperatures and harsh processing conditions, he said.

Unlike most probiotics, which have typically been focused on short shelf-life refrigerated products, Wellmune has a five-year shelf life in powder form under ambient storage conditions and a mild taste Mueller claims is “easily masked​”

He added: “Biothera currently has development projects in almost every food and supplement category with major companies in every part of the world. Sales have more than doubled each year for the past three consecutive years, and we expect sales to continue to grow very rapidly​. There is manufacturer interest in nearly every product application.”

From a standing start in 2007, Wellmune WGP was now used as an ingredient in products in more than 30 countries, roughly a third of which were in North America, a third in Asia and a third in Europe, he added.

“These manufacturers range from large global companies, such as Mead Johnson and Coca-Cola​ [which recently launched its Fuze Defensify drink with Wellmune WGP], to smaller regional food, supplement and beverage companies.”

More than a dozen human clinical studies

Yeast beta glucans have long been part of the human diet through breads and other products, said Mueller. “However, the amount of beta glucan humans consumed was quiet small because very little beta glucan is exposed in raw yeast.

“Through patented manufacturing processes, Biothera removes the mannans, proteins and lipids from its proprietary strain of yeast to produce a highly purified beta 1,3/1,6 glucan that delivers a real health benefit as measured through more than a dozen human clinical studies.”

Borrowed science is not acceptable

Beta glucan 1-3, 1-6 was not the same as cholesterol-busting oat beta glucan, which has a different molecular structure 1,3/1,4, he said.

“Our research has demonstrated that even slight molecular differences among yeast beta glucans can affect biological activity. So it is important to note that not even all yeast beta glucans are alike. Each yeast strain has different molecular structures with different health benefits.

“Each product should be supported by research conducted with that specific kind of beta glucan and the strain of yeast it is derived from. As regulators have noted with differing probiotic strains, borrowed science is not acceptable.”

Finished products

While Biothera marketed finished supplement products containing Wellmune WGP under the Immune Health Basics brand, its foray into finished products was primarily to “gain marketing insight that may be valuable to our manufacturing customers”​, explained Mueller.

“Biothera’s Healthcare Group is primarily focused on selling Wellmune WGP as a bulk ingredient to food, beverage and premium supplement manufacturers. “

The monograph

The monograph was issued in the Third Supplement of the Seventh Edition of the Food Chemicals Codex, an internationally recognized compendium of standards for the purity and identity of food ingredients.

Biothera contributed the reference standard and two methods for identifying and quantifying the beta 1,3/1,6 branched glucan polymer derived from the cell walls of bakers yeast plus additional methods to assure the purity of the material.

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